Published Sep 17, 2020Lili Horvát joins her fellow countryman Kornél Mundruczó (whose Pieces of a Woman offered a melodramatic look at the complexities of lost motherhood) to represent the burgeoning Hungarian cinema scene at TIFF this year. Her film Preparations to Be Together for an Unknown Period of Time is as mysterious and thought provoking as its title suggests — a complex yet contained narrative feature that splits the difference between romantic drama and psychological thriller.
Natasa Stork stars as Vizy Márta, a star neurosurgeon who leaves her decorated life in New Jersey to return to her native Budapest for love. The object of her affection is Drexler János (Viktor Bodó), a famed brain surgeon turned writer she met at a conference. The pair had planned to meet, but when she runs into him on the street he has no idea who she is.
As her new life in Budapest unfolds, she's tormented by Drexler — whether or not he made romantic plans with her, whether or not she even exists. She starts seeing a therapist, trying to unpack the confusion, but Budapest's neurosurgeon scene is fairly tight knit so she continues to cross paths with Drexler.
With Preparations, Horvát has crafted a twisty romantic drama that is too complex to be closed in a satisfying way, and its conclusion is thus disappointingly straightforward. But the journey is delightful thanks to her strong direction, Stork's fantastic and reserved performance, and the drab Eastern European sets, most of which are fluorescent-lit to provide a look not unlike early Cronenberg or classic Kieślowski.
Preparations to Be Together for an Unknown Period of Time is a decidedly unique and thought-provoking drama, and it will stick with you for an indeterminate period. (Poste Restante)